A 14-Day Thanksgiving Planning Timeline

My love for event planning can find its roots in Thanksgiving. I grew up in a family filled with people who love to cook and host and Thanksgiving has always been the most important holiday in our household.

But if you’ve never hosted one before, Thanksgiving Dinner can be a bit stressful and intimidating. From selecting the menu and prepping your home to making sure every dish is done on time, there are a lot of moving pieces and planning ahead is essential.

With that in mind, here’s your 14-day Thanksgiving timeline, plus a freebie, to help you get ready!

2 weeks Before

  • Finalize your guest list. While you’re at it, check if there are any dietary restrictions.

  • Finalize your menu. I would recommend 2-3 appetizers, 3-4 sides, 1-2 mains (including the turkey), and 1-2 desserts.

  • Don't forget the turkey! If you're buying frozen you can go ahead and buy now to avoid the rush. If you're going fresh, be sure to order in advance. Not sure how much turkey to buy? 1 pound of bone-in turkey per person is a good rule of thumb.

10-12 Days Before

  • Check your kitchen equipment and serving platters. Roasting pan (in the right size), potato masher, meat thermometer…if you’re like me you might only using these items once in a blue moon - or never! So make sure you have everything you need and that it’s all in good condition. Now is also a good time to think about what your serving each menu item on and to make sure you have enough platters, bowls, serving utensils, etc.

  • Delegate menu items. Thanksgiving is a very communal holiday, so let your friends and family chip in! Each year, my aunt will send out the menu and recipes to the family to see if anyone is interested in making anything on the list. Or to see if we have anything else to add!

  • Plan your decor and layout. Decide which china, glassware, and table linens you'll use, and make sure you have enough tables and chairs for your guests. Make sure your linens are clean and pressed. If you’re hosting a large group, decide if you’ll need to rearrange your space a bit to accommodate extra tables. Finally, think about if there are any decorations you want to purchase or create. Candles and a nice floral centerpiece can go a long way to making your dinner feel cozy and inviting.

8-9 Days Before

  • Determine if there are any dishes you can make ahead of time and make a plan for doing so. Gravy, soups, cranberry sauce, and pies can all be made ahead and frozen.

  • Make your shopping list. Don’t forget to factor in what you can buy early and store away and what might need to be purchased during a second shopping trip closer to the day.

  • Clean out your fridge. Trust me, you’re going to need every bit of space you can get - before, during prep, and for all the leftovers afterwards!

6-7 Days Before

  • Shopping trip #1. Buy anything - ingredients, alcohol, decor items, serving items - that can be purchased this far in advance

  • Start cooking. Now’s a time to get a head start and cook anything that can be frozen and heated up the day-of.

  • Thaw the turkey. If you’re going with a frozen turkey, now’s the time to move it to the refrigerator to thaw. Yes, you need this much time!

4-5 Days Before

  • Clean the house. Buy anything - ingredients, alcohol, decor items, serving items - that can be purchased this far in advance.

  • Clean and prep serving ware. Buff and polish our silverware. Make sure your china, stemware, and platters are clean. Iron your linens (and go ahead set set them out, if you can.)

2-3 Days Before

  • Shopping trip #2. Buy anything else that you need. If you’re going with a fresh turkey, now’s the time to buy it!

  • Cook anything that can be made ahead of time. Like cranberry sauce, gravy, or pie crusts.

  • Do some prep work. Chopping vegetables ahead of time will go a long way to making for a more laid-back Thanksgiving day.

The Day Before

  • Set the table. Not only is it one less thing to do on Thanksgiving day, it makes for a great first-impression when your guests arrive.

  • Make sure your kitchen counters are cleared of all clutter. “Thanksgiving Day you” will be grateful.

  • Start any dough. If you’re making bread or rolls from scratch, you’ll want to give the dough enough time to rise.

  • Make a to-do list and timeline for tomorrow. For your timeline, I recommend starting with what time you want to serve dinner and work backwards from there to determine when you need to start each dish.

  • Shower the night before and get some sleep. I’m a morning shower type of gal, but if I try to shower day-of, I inevitably run out of time on Thanksgiving Day and end up eating dinner a little less than fresh.


  • Enjoy friends and family. Don’t forget to take the time to soak in the moments and savory all the delicious food you and your loved ones made. If anyone offers to help, graciously accept it. And don’t forget to enjoy a glass or two of wine!

Worried you might you forget all of this? Don’t worry! I’ve created a free printable for you to print or pin!

Thanksgiving Planning Timeline Pittsburgh Event Planner (1).png

What are your helpful tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving? Comment below!